Finding Balance in Work, Surf, and Yoga Teacher Training

Posted by Rhea Cortado on

Heathyr Smyth’s first impression of yoga nearly seven years ago is similar to what many land-locked residents have said about watching skilled wave-riders gliding and turning like second nature: ‘That looks pretty fun, but I’m scared of looking stupid next to all the real surfers.’  

In Heathyr’s case, she bought a yoga movie online and watched it until she felt courageous enough to attend a yoga studio. After she arrived at her first class to find new friends and a welcoming community, she wondered why it took her so long to shake off her insecurities and begin. “From that first class I knew this would be a lifelong practice. Wherever I moved—Santa Cruz and now San Clemente— I found a community in yoga,” she continued.  

Heathyr joined Seea almost two years ago as our Production Manager, where she works closely with designer Amanda Chinchelli to follow our suits from first samples to the final pieces that are shipped around the world.

“Seea feels like friends that are close family. We are all like-minded creatives that are working towards greater causes of personal passion and mother earth. The energy is sometimes so high that I think, ‘How will I unwind and level out?’”

That’s where yoga came in again, she explained. “It has a way of bringing me back down to earth—grounding and healing as it pushed growth from the inside out.” While working full-time, she has nearly completed 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training through Shiva Rea’s Samudra Global School of Living Yoga in Prana Vinyasa, led by Kelley Doyle in San Clemente. We talked with her more about how the process of teaching training has been a magical transformation, and how its lessons enrich her daily life.

Photos by Heidi Zumbrun and Luki O'Keefe. 

What prompted your yoga teacher-training journey?

I did my first 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2014 because I wanted to deepen my practice. Yoga had become significant in my life and where all the worry and fear disappeared. I could work things out on my mat through breath and mantra that I hadn’t been able to do anywhere else.

I was excited to advance my practice again when I started my next cycle of teacher training. Now as I am completing this 500-hour cycle, I discovered that sharing this practice through teaching—changing people’s perspectives of yoga to a positive experience—and self-exploration have all been key to growth.

Yoga is for anybody and everybody. With the tools I’ve learned through teacher training, it’s starting to click more and more when I teach. I can see it in class when the words I use make a difference in how the class moves. When students come back the next week, I really smile and know that lives are changing and people are becoming more aware and awakened. That’s the feeling that keeps me coming back for more.

How has your practice evolved over the seven years? What were your biggest breakthroughs? 

Practice equals progression. In Prana Vinyasa there are advanced poses that come early on in the flow. Right after the first few sequence waves, you move right into the pose. That’s what I love about this style: move in and then progress that more. The idea of sequencing around one peak pose feels a little mundane now. My teacher Kelley Doyle likes to say, “Why limit your students, let them explore and try progressive poses, why not?” 

I found myself feeling stuck in my yoga practice. Prana Vinyasa brings in elements of movement that are natural to the body but it’s almost a remembrance. We have to remember and feel the embodiment of the movement.  Most importantly, cultivating the breath and then the free-form movement has been challenging, but my body absolutely loves it! 

How do you carry yoga principles through to work and life?

My yoga practice stays with me from the smallest things to the biggest—the microcosm to the macrocosm. Getting in tune with myself has aligned my various activities and harmoniously combined them with balance.

I try to maintain mindful posture while sitting and of course, smiling helps to relieve tension. In times of hard labor—like moving 50 lb rolls of fabric at the factories—I make sure to engage my core and any bhandas to support spinal health.  We try to keep it pretty light at work, but always being mindful of others and building co-workers up. We can all succeed together as one. Encouragement and meaningful compliments can change a mood or a bad day to good super quick!

For my 500 hour Seea has been amazing. To feel this type of support from your employer is a dream come true!  It shows you that how much they care about your well-being and happiness, but still have high expectations for my role.    

What suggestions do you have for people who want to start YTT?

A huge inspiration in my life is “Just do it.” It will never be the right time, so just make it a priority.  If you replace the words “I don’t have enough time” with “That’s just not a priority right now,” you will change your mindset. Make yourself a priority. You do have time to take a teacher training. 

During both of my YTT programs, the teachers have been very understanding. Life happens and you can make up any missed time. Maybe you can make up the missed time in the next cycle where you can meet more people and make more lifelong friends.

If you are looking to immerse yourself in the practice I also recommend trying out a retreat. This can kickstart or deepen your practice by completely immersing yourself in a lifestyle that you take back into your daily life. Check out the Yoga/Surf retreat I am hosting in May in Troncones, Mexico called Wild Meridians that’s based on yoga, surfing, and vegan cuisine. It’s an elemental escape in which you can dive deeper into your practice and honor a different element each day: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space.  I am also giving away a spot on the retreat so sign up for the newsletter and check out the Instagram on how to enter! 

What are your favorite mat and props to use and why? 

When I started my first YTT, I bought myself a Manduka ProLite. I did hours of research and knew exactly what I wanted. A nice mat will make all the difference starting at your foundation. You can finally stop worrying about if you are going to slip and fall and start working on deepening your practice. 

Manduka has so many amazing props that I use in my classes to help people get into poses if their body is unable. Something as simple as sitting on the block on the lowest level so you feel your sit bones rooting and grounding down can make all the difference. We are teaching people how to move their bodies in ways they may not feel comfortable or have never done been before. But it is a matter of trusting yourself, trusting the process, and letting go a little bit so that you can progress. Some of the essential props I recommend are a strap, blocks, bolster, and two Mexican blankets.

How does yoga relate to your surfing both physically and mentally?

The meditative movements, the grace and intentional actions, the preparing of the body and the strength it takes to just start sometimes—whether that is surfing or yoga. Just bringing more intention into each action and movement.  Breathing life into the essence of your mind, body, and soul.  Yoga and surfing have a way of complimenting and balancing each other. At times each are strengthening and at other times more stretching.  Gliding across a wave is similar to flowing through a yoga practice. Find the breath… find the grace…Find the flow.

Special thanks to Manduka for the best yoga mats, no-slip towels, and blocks! 



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